Bottle Bill Victories
Bottle Bill Modernization Passes House & Senate
In 2021, the Vermont House overwhelmingly passed legislation (H.175) that expanded the scope of the Bottle Bill program to include wine and non-carbonated drinks like water, iced tea, sports drinks, and juice. We followed up that success by gathering more than 10,000 signatures in support of the legislation through our summer door-to-door canvass.
The Senate finally took up the bill in March of 2022. Senators decided not only to increase the scope of the law, but also to create more convenient redemption locations for consumers and require beverage producers to take more responsibility for running the program. The bill won final approval in the Senate on May 11, 2022. Unfortunately, both the House and Senate adjourned for good the very next day, which did not leave enough time for the two chambers to work out their differences on this bill. This was a major disappointment given the hard work our VPIRG team, members, key allies, and legislators put into getting this bill passed. But, the success we had on the Bottle Bill this session will give us a huge boost as we head into the next biennium, determined to pass the legislation then.
Under the current Bottle Bill system, Vermonters pay an extra nickel for every bottle or can of beer or soda purchased and get the money back when they return the empty container. The program has been an incredible success since it was passed in 1972. Not only has it reduced litter, but it has also been responsible for recycling more than 10 billion beverage containers.
In recent years, however, Vermont has begun to fall behind other states that have kept pace with the development of new beverages like teas and sports drinks, and water in single serving plastic bottles. For instance, Vermont’s Bottle Bill covers only 46% of the beverage containers sold here, while Maine’s law covers 91 percent. Nearly every Bottle Bill state has updated its program to include more containers than Vermont, including Oregon, Hawaii, California, New York, and Connecticut, all covering at least 77% of beverages sold in their states.
Vermonters love the Bottle Bill and are ready to update it. In fact, a recent poll found that 88% of Vermonters support the current law. Support for updating the law to cover more beverages like sports drinks, water bottles and wine was also incredibly strong, with 83% in favor of expansion and just 15% opposing it.
Public support for updating the Bottle Bill in Vermont is solid across the political spectrum, and the nation’s biggest recyclers of glass, aluminum and PET plastic support it as well.
We applaud the House & Senate for passing this legislation. Legislators deserve credit for rejecting the dishonest tactics of the beverage giants and Vermont’s waste industry in advancing this bill.
Vermont’s Bottle Bill program has long been hailed as the state’s most successful and popular recycling program. But since the law was first passed back in 1972, the state had been giving away unclaimed deposits – estimated to be worth well over $2 million per year – to beverage manufacturers and distributors.
For decades, VPIRG worked to end the giveaway of millions of dollars in unclaimed bottle deposits to the beverage industry and put that money to work for Vermonters.
Finally, in May 2018, Governor Phil Scott signed S.285, which reclaims the deposits and puts that money toward helping clean up Vermont’s water ways starting in October 2019. This was a victory many years in the making – the result of hard work and grassroots advocacy by countless VPIRG staffers, members, supporters and allies.
We’re proud to have played an instrumental role in achieving this important victory, and will continue to fight to broaden the scope of the Bottle Bill to include wine bottles as well as a number of containers that didn’t exist when the law was passed more than 45 years ago, such as water bottles and sports drink containers.